Copyright
Walter Scott.

The poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet online

. (page 47 of 78)
Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 47 of 78)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Yet legends say that Luxury's brute hoof
Intruded oft within such sacred fold,
Like step of Bel's false priest tracked in his fane of old.

Well pleased am I, howe'er, that when the route
Of our rude neighbors whilome deigned to come,
Uncalled and eke unwelcome, to sweep out
And cleanse our chancel from the rags of Rome,
They spoke not on our ancient fane the doom
To which their bigot zeal gave o'er their own,
But spared the martyred saint and storied tomb,
Though papal miracles had graced the stone,
And though the aisles still loved the organ's swelling tone.

And deem not, though 't is now my part to paint
A prelate swayed by love of power and gold,
That all who wore the mitre of our Saint
Like to ambitious Aldingar I hold ;
Since both in modern times and days of old
It sate on those whose virtues might atone
Their predecessors' frailties trebly told :
Matthew and Morton we as such may own —
And such — if fame speak truth — the honored Barrington.



But now to earlier and to ruder times,
As subject meet, I tune my rugged

rhymes,
Telling how fairly the chapter was met,
And rood and books in seemly order set;
Huge brass-clasped volumes which the

band
( )!' studious priest but rarely scanned,
Now on fair carved desk displayed,
"T was theirs the solemn scene to aid.
( )'( i luad with many a scutcheon graced
And quaint devices interlaced,
A labyrinth of crossing rows,
The root in lessening arches shows;
Beneath its shade placed proud and high
With footstool and with canopy,
Sate .Aldingar — and prelate ne'er
More haughty graced Saint Cuthbert's

chair;
( ai ions and deacons were placed below,
In due degree and lengthened row.
Unmoved and silent each sat there,



Like image in his oaken chair ;

Nor head nor hand nor foot they stirred,

Nor lock of hair nor tress of beard ;

And of their eyes severe alone

The twinkle showed they were not stone.



in.

The prelate was to speech addressed,
Each head sunk reverent on each breast ;
But ere his voice was heard — without
Arose a wild tumultuous shout,
Offspring of wonder mixed with fear,
Such as in crowded streets we hear
Hailing the flames that, bursting out,
Attract yet scare the rabble rout.
Ere it had ceased a giant hand
Shook oaken door and iron band
Till oak and iron both gave way,
Clashed the long bolts, the hinges bray,
And, ere upon angel or saint they can call,
Stands Harold the Dauntless in midst of
the hall.



HAROLD THE DAUNTLESS.



451



' Now save ye, my masters, both rocket and
rood,

From bishop with mitre to deacon with
hood!

For here stands Count Harold, old Witi-
kind's son,

Come to sue for the lands which his ances-
tors won.'

The prelate looked round him with sore
troubled eye,

Unwilling to grant yet afraid to deny ;

While each canon and deacon who heard
the Dane speak,

To be safely at home would have fasted a
week : —

Then Aldingar roused him and answered
again,

' Thou suest for a boon which thou canst
not obtain ;

The Church hath no fiefs for an unchris-
tened Dane.

Thy father was wise, and his treasure hath
given

That the priests of a chantry might hymn
him to heaven;

And the fiefs which whilome he possessed
as his due

Have lapsed to the Church, and been
granted anew

To Anthony Conyers and Alberic Vere,

For the service Saint Cuthbert's blest ban-
ner to bear

When the bands of the North come to foray
the Wear ;

Then disturb not our conclave with wrang-
ling or blame,

But in peace and in patience pass hence as
ye came.'

v.

Loud laughed the stern Pagan, 'They're

free from the care
Of fief and of service, both Conyers and

Vere, —
Six feet of your chancel is all they will

need,
A buckler of stone and a corselet of lead. —
Ho, Gunnar ! — the tokens ! ' — and, severed

anew,
A head and a hand on the altar he threw.
Then shuddered with terror both canon

and monk,
They knew the glazed eye and the counte-
nance shrunk,
And of Anthony Conyers the half-grizzled

hair,
And the scar on the hand of Sir Alberic

Vere.



There was not a churchman or priest that

was there
But grew pale at the sight and betook him

to prayer.



VI.

Count Harold laughed at their looks of fear :
'Was this the hand should your banner

bear?
Was that the head should wear the casque
In battle at the Church's task?
Was it to such you gave the place
Of Harold with the heavy mace ?
Find me between the Wear and Tyne
A knight will wield this club of mine, —
Give him my fiefs, and I will say-
There 's wit beneath the cowl of gray.'
He raised it, rough with many a stain
Caught from crushed skull and spouting

brain ;
He wheeled it that it shrilly sung
And the aisles echoed as it swung,
Then dashed it down with sheer descent
And split King Osric's monument. —
'How like ye this music? How trow ye

the hand
That can wield such a mace may be reft of

its land ?
No answer ? — I spare ye a space to agree,
And Saint Cuthbert inspire you, a saint if

he be.
Ten strides through your chancel, ten

strokes on your bell,
And again I am with you — grave fathers,

farewell.'

VII.

He turned from their presence, he clashed

the oak door,
And the clang of his stride died away on

the floor ;
And his head from his bosom the prelate

uprears
With a ghost-seer's look when the ghost

disappears :
'Ye Priests of Saint Cuthbert, now give

me your rede,
For never of counsel had bishop more need !
Were the arch-fiend incarnate in flesh and

in bone,
The language, the look, and the laugh were

his own.
In the bounds of Saint Cuthbert there is

not a knight
Dare confront in our quarrel yon goblin in

fight;
Then rede me aright to his claim to reply,
'T is unlawful to grant and 't is death to

deny.'



452



SCOTT'S POETICAL WORKS.



VIII.

On venison and malmsie that morning had

fed
The Cellarer Vinsauf — 't was thus that he

said :
4 Delay till to-morrow the Chapter's reply ;
Let the feast be spread fair and the wine

be poured high :
If he's mortal he drinks, — if he drinks.

he is ours —
His bracelets of iron, — his bed in our

towers.'
This man had a laughing eye,
Trust not, friends, when such you spy ;
A beaker's depth he well could drain,
Revel, sport, and jest amain —
The haunch of the deer and the grape's

bright dye
Never bard loved them better than I ;
But sooner than Vinsauf filled me my wine,
Passed me his jest, and laughed at mine,
Though the buck were of Bearpark, of

Bourdeaux the vine,
With the dullest hermit I 'd rather dine
•On an oaken cake and a draught of the

Tyne.

IX.

Walwayn the leech spoke next — he knew
Each plant that loves the sun and dew,
But special those whose juice can gain
Dominion o'er the blood and brain ;
The peasant who saw him by pale moon-
beam
< iathering such herbs by bank and stream
Deemed his thin form and soundless tread
Were those of wanderer from the dead. —
' Vinsauf, thy wine.' he said, 'hath power,
•Our gyves are heavy, strong our tower ;
Yet three drops from this flask of mine,
.More strong than dungeons, gyves, or

wine,
Shall give him prison under ground

dark, more narrow, more profound.
Short rede, good rede, let Harold have—
A dog's death and a heathen's grave.'
I have lain on a sick man's bed,
Watching for hours for the leech's tread,
As n 1 deemed that his presence alone
Were of power to bid my pain begone :
f have listed his words of comfort given,
As it to on. Irs from heaven;
I have counted his steps from my chamber

door,
And blessed them when they were heard

no more; —
But sooner than Walwayn my sick couch

should nigh,
My choice were by leech-craft unaided to
die.



'Such service done in fervent zeal
The Church may pardon and conceal,'
The doubtful prelate said, ' but ne'er
The counsel ere the act should hear. —
Anselm of Jarrow, advise us now,
The stamp of wisdom is on thy brow ;
Thy days, thy nights, in cloister pent,
Are still to mystic learning lent ; —
Anselm of Jarrow, in thee is my hope,
Thou well mayst give counsel to prelate or
pope.'

XI.

Answered the prior — "Tis wisdom's use
Still to delay what we dare not refuse ;
Ere granting the boon he comes hither to

ask,
Shape for the giant gigantic task ;
Let us see how a step so sounding can

tread
In paths of darkness, danger, and dread ;
He may not, he will not, impugn our decree
That calls but for proof of his chivalry ;
And were Guy to return or Sir Bevis the

Strong,
Our wilds have adventure might cumber

them long —
The Castle of Seven Shields ' — ' Kind

Anselm, no more !
The step of the Pagan approaches the door.'
The churchmen were hushed. — In his

mantle of skin
With his mace on his shoulder Count

Harold strode in.
There was foam on his lips, there was fire

in his eye,
For, chafed by attendance, his fury was

nigh.
'Ho! Bishop,' he said, 'dost thou grant

me my claim?
Or must I assert it by falchion and flame ? '

XII.

'On thy suit, gallant Harold,' the bishop

replied,
In accents which trembled, 'we may not

decide
Until proof of your strength and your valor

we saw —
'T is not that we doubt them, but such is

the law.' —
' And would you, Sir Prelate, have Harold

make sport
For the cowls and the shavelings that herd

in thy court ?
Say what shall he do ? — From the shrine

shall he tear
The lead bier of thy patron and heave it in

air.



HAROLD THE DAUNTLESS.



453



And through the long chancel make Cuth-

bert take wing
With the speed of a bullet dismissed from

the sling ? ' —
• Nay, spare such probation,' the cellarer

said,
1 From the mouth of our minstrels thy task

shall be read.
While the wine sparkles high in the goblet

of gold
And the revel is loudest, thy task shall be

told;
And thyself, gallant Harold, shall, hearing

it, tell
That the bishop, his cowls, and his shave-
lings, meant well.'

XIII.

Loud revelled the guests and the goblets

loud rang,
But louder the minstrel, Hugh Meneville,

sang;
And Harold, the hurry and pride of whose

soul,
E'en when verging to fury, owned music's

control,
Still bent on the harper his broad sable eye,
And often untasted the goblet passed by ;
Than wine or than wassail to him was more

dear
The minstrel's high tale of enchantment to

hear ;
And the bishop that day might of Vinsauf

complain
That his art had but wasted his wine-casks

in vain.

XIV.

Sfjr Castle of tfjt $rtnt Sfjtetos.

A BALLAD.

The Druid Urien had daughters seven,
Their skill could call the moon from heaven;
So fair their forms and so high their fame
That seven proud kings for their suitors
came.

King Mador and Rhys came from Powis

and Wales,
Unshorn was their hair and unpruned were

their nails ;
From Strath-Clyde was Ewain, and Ewain

was lame,
And the red-bearded Donald from Galloway

came.

Lot, King of Lodon, was hunchbacked from

youth ;
Dunmail of Cumbria had never a tooth ;



But Adolf of Bambrough, Northumberland's

heir,
Was gay and was gallant, was young and

was fair.



There was strife 'mongst the sisters, for

each one would have
For husband King Adolf, the gallant and

brave ;
And envy bred hate, and hate urged them

to blows,
When the firm earth was cleft and the

Arch-fiend arose !

He swore to the maidens their wish to

fulfil —
They swore to the foe they would work by

his will.
A spindle and distaff to each hath he given,
* Now hearken my spell,' said the Outcast

of heaven.

'Ye shall ply these spindles at midnight
hour,

And for every spindle shall rise a tower,

Where the right shall be feeble, the wrong
shall have power,

And there shall ye dwell with your para-
mour.'

Beneath the pale moonlight they sate on
the wold,

And the rhymes which they chanted must
never be told ;

And as the black wool from the distaff they
sped,

With blood from their bosom they moist-
ened the thread.

As light danced the spindles beneath the

cold gleam,
The castle arose like the birth of a dream —
The seven towers ascended like mist from

the ground,
Seven portals defend them, seven ditches

surround.

Within that dread castle seven monarchs
were wed,

But six of the seven ere the morning lay
dead;

With their eyes all on fire and their daggers
all red,

Seven damsels surround the Northum-
brian's bed.

1 Six kingly bridegrooms to death we have

done,
Six gallant kingdoms King Adolf hath won,



454



SCOTT'S POETICAL WORKS.



Six lovely brides all his pleasure to do,
Or the bed of the seventh shall be husband-
less too.'

Well chanced it that Adolf the night when
he wed

Had confessed and had sained him ere
boune to his bed;

He sprung from the couch and his broad-
sword he drew,

And there the seven daughters of Urien he
slew.

The gate of the castle he bolted and sealed,
And hung o'er each arch-stone a crown and

a shield ;
To the cells of Saint Dunstan then wended

his way,
And died in his cloister an anchorite gray.

Seven monarchs' wealth in that castle lies

stowed,
The foul fiends brood o'er them like raven

and toad.
Whoever shall guesten these chambers

within,
From curfew till matins, that treasure shall

win.



But manhood grows faint as the world

waxes old !
There lives not in Britain a champion so

bold,
So dauntless of heart, and so prudent of

brain,
As to dare the adventure that treasure to

gain.

The waste ridge of Cheviot shall wave with
the uye,

Before the rude Scots shall Northumber-
land fly,

And the flint cliffs of Bambro' shall melt
in the sun,

Before that adventure be perilled and won.



xv.

'And is this my probation?' wild Harold

he said,
'Within a lone castle to press a lone

bed?—
Good even, my lord bishop, — Saint Cuth-

bert to borrow,
The Castle of Seven Shields receives me

to-morrow.'



Varolii tfje JBauntag.



CANTO FIFTH.



Denmark's sage courtier to her princely youth,
Granting his cloud an ousel or a whale,
Spoke, though unwittingly, a partial truth ;
For Fantasy embroiders Nature's veil.
The tints of ruddy eve or dawning pale.
Of the swart thunder-cloud or silver haze,
Are but the ground-work of the rich detail
Which Fantasy with pencil wild portrays,
Blending what seems and is in the wrapt muser's gaze.



Nor are the stubborn forms of earth and stone
Less to the Sorceress's empire given ;
For not with unsubstantial hues alone,
Caught from the varying surge of vacant heaven,
From bursting sunbeam or from flashing levin,
Slu- limns her pictures : on the earth, as air,
Arise her castles and her car is driven;
And never gazed the eye on scene so fair.
But of its boasted charms gave Fancy half the share.



HAROLD THE DAUNTLESS.



455




Up a wild pass went Harold, bent to prove,
Hugh Meneville, the adventure of thy lay ;
Gunnar pursued his steps in faith and love,
Ever companion of his master's way.
Midward their path, a rock of granite gray
From the adjoining cliff had made descent, —
A barren mass — yet with her drooping spray
Had a young birch-tree crowned its battlement,
Twisting her fibrous roots through cranny, flaw, and rent.

This rock and tree could Gunnar's thought engage
Till Fancy brought the tear-drop to his eye,
And at his master asked the timid page,
* What is the emblem that a bard should spy
In that rude rock and its green canopy ?'
And Harold said, ' Like to the helmet brave
Of warrior slain in fight it seems to lie.
And these same drooping boughs do o'er it wave
Not all unlike the plume his lady's favor gave.'

'Ah, no! ' replied the page; 'the ill-starred love
Of some poor maid is in the emblem shown,
Whose fates are with some hero's interwove
And rooted on a heart to love unknown :
And as the gentle dews of heaven alone
Nourish those drooping boughs, and as the scathe
Of the red lightning rends both tree and stone,
So fares it with her unrequited faith, —
Her sole relief is tears — her only refuge death.'



Hi.

' Thou art a fond fantastic boy,'
Harold replied, ' to females coy,

Yet prating still of love ;
Even so amid the clash of war
I know thou lov'st to keep afar,
Though destined by thy evil star

With one like me to rove,
Whose business and whose joys are found
Upon the bloody battle-ground.
Yet, foolish trembler as thou art,
Thou hast a nook of my rude heart,
And thou and I will never part ; —
Harold would wrap the wor\d in flame
Ere injury on Gunnar came.'

IV.

The grateful page made no reply,
But turned to heaven his gentle eye,
And clasped his hands, as one who said,
' My toils — my wanderings are o'erpaid ! '
Then in a gayer, lighter strain,
Compelled himself to speech again ;

And, as they flowed along,
His words took cadence soft and slow,
And liquid, like dissolving snow,

They melted into song.



' What though through fields of carnage

wide
I may not follow Harold's stride,
Yet who with faithful Gunnar's pride

Lord Harold's feats can see ?
And dearer than the couch of pride
He loves the bed of gray wolf's hide,
When slumbering by Lord Harold's side

In forest, field, or lea.'

VI.

* Break off ! ' said Harold, in a tone
Where hurry and surprise were shown,

With some slight touch of fear,
« Break off, we are not here alone ;
A palmer form comes slowly on !
By cowl and staff and mantle known,

My monitor is near.
Now mark him, Gunnar, heedfully ;
He pauses by the blighted tree —
Dost see him, youth ? — Thou couldst not

see
When in the vale of Galilee

I first beheld his form,
Nor when we met that other while
In Cephalonia's rocky isle



456



SCOTT'S POETICAL WORKS.



Before the fearful storm, —
Dost see him now?' — The page, dis-
traught
With terror, answered, ' I see naught,

And there is naught to see,
Save that the oak's scathed boughs fling

down
Upon the path a shadow brown
That, like a pilgrim's dusky gown,

Waves with the waving tree.'

VII.

Count Harold gazed upon the oak
As if his eyestrings would have broke,

And then resolvedly said,
' Be what it will yon phantom gray —
Nor heaven nor hell shall ever say
That for their shadows from" his way

Count Harold turned dismayed :
I '11 speak him, though his accents fill
My heart with that unwonted thrill

Which vulgar minds call fear.
I will subdue it ! ' Forth he strode,
Paused where the blighted oak-tree

showed
Its sable shadow on the road,
And, folding on his bosom broad

His arms, said, ' Speak— I hear.'

VIII.

The Deep Voice said, ' O wild of will,
Furious thy purpose to fulfil —
Heart-seared and unrepentant still,
How long, O Harold, shall thy tread
Disturb the slumbers of the dead ?
Each step in thy wild way thou makest,
The ashes of the dead thou wakest ;
And shout in triumph o'er thy path
The fiends of bloodshed and of wrath.
In this thine hour, yet turn and hear !
For life is brief and judgment near.'

IX.

Then ceased the Voice. — The Dane re-
plied

In tones where awe and inborn pride
I « )t mastery strove, ' In vain ye chide
The wolf for ravaging the flock,
Or with its hardness taunt the rock, —
I am as they — my Danish strain
Sends streams of fire through every vein.
Amid thy realms of goule and ghost,
Say, is tne Came of Eric lost,

A"itikind*s the Waster, known
Where tame or spoil was to be won;
Whose galleys ne'er bore off a shore
Tluv left not black with flame? —
I le was my site, - and, sprung of him,
That rover men iless and .urirn,
ad tame ?



Part hence and with my crimes no more

upbraid me,
I am that Waster's son and am but what

he made me.'



x.

The Phantom groaned; — the mountain

shook around,
The fawn and wild-doe started at the sound,
The gorse and fern did wildly round them

wave,
As if some sudden storm the impulse gave.
' All thou hast said is truth — yet on the

head
Of that bad sire let not the charge be laid
That he, like thee, with unrelenting pace
From grave to cradle ran the evil race : —
Relentless in his avarice and ire,
Churches and towns he gave to sword and

fire ;
Shed blood like water, wasted every land,
Like the destroying angel's burning brand ;
Fulfilled whate'er of ill might be invented,
Yes — all these things he did — he did, but

he REPENTED !

Perchance it is part of his punishment still
That his offspring pursues his example of

ill.
But thou, when thy tempest of wrath shall

next shake thee,
Gird thy loins for resistance, my son, and

awake thee ;
If thou yield'st to thy fury, how tempted

soever,
The gate of repentance shall ope for thee

never ! '

XI.

' He is gone,' said Lord Harold and gazed

as he spoke ;
' There is naught on the path but the shade

of the oak.
He is gone whose strange presence my

feeling oppressed,
Like the night-hag that sits on the slum-

berer's breast.
My heart beats as thick as a fugitive's tread,
And cold dews drop from my brow and my

head. —
Ho ! Gunnar, the flasket yon almoner gave ;
He said that three drops would recall from

the grave.
For the first time Count Harold owns leech-
craft has power,
Or, his courage to aid, lacks the juice of a

flower! '
The page gave the flasket, which Walwayn

had filled
With the juice of wild roots that his heart
had distilled —



HAROLD THE DAUNTLESS.



457



So baneful their influence on all that had

breath,
One drop had been frenzy and two had been

death.
Harold took it, but drank not : for jubilee

shrill
And music and clamor were heard on the

hill,
And down the steep pathway o'er stock and

o'er stone
The train of a bridal came blithesomely on ;
There was song, there was pipe, there was

timbrel, and still
The burden was, ' Joy to the fair Metelill ! '

XII.

Harold might see from his high stance,
Himself unseen, that train advance

With mirth and melody ; —
On horse and foot a mingled throng,
Measuring their steps to bridal song

And bridal minstrelsy ;
And ever when the blithesome rout
Lent to the song their choral shout.
Redoubling echoes rolled about,
While echoing cave and cliff sent out

The answering symphony
Of all those mimic notes which dwell
In hollow rock and sounding dell.

XIII.

Joy shook his torch above the band,
By many a various passion fanned ; —
As elemental sparks can feed
On essence pure and coarsest weed.
Gentle or stormy or refined,
Joy takes the colors of the mind.
Lightsome and pure but unrepressed,
He fired the bridegroom's gallant breast :
More feebly strove with maiden fear,
Yet still joy glimmered through the tear
On the bride's blushing cheek that shows
Like dewdrop on the budding rose ;
While Wulf stane's gloomy smile declared
The glee that selfish avarice shared,
And pleased revenge and malice high
Joy's semblance took in Jutta's eye.
On dangerous adventure sped,
The witch deemed Harold with the dead,
For thus that mornjier demon said : —
' If, ere the set of sun, be tied
The knot 'twixt bridegroom and his bride,
The Dane shall have no power of ill
O'er William and o'er Metelill.'
And the pleased witch made answer,

'Then
Must Harold have passed from the paths

of men !
Evil repose may his spirit have, —



May hemlock and mandrake find root in
his grave, —

May his death-sleep be dogged by dreams
of dismay,

And his waking be worse at the answer-
ing day ! '

XIV.

Such was their various mood of glee
Blent in one shout of ecstasy.
But still when Joy is brimming highest,
Of sorrow and misfortune nighest,
Of Terror with her ague cheek,
And lurking Danger, sages speak : —
These haunt each path, but chief they lay
Their snares beside the primrose way. —
Thus found that bridal band their path
Beset by Harold in his wrath.
Trembling beneath his maddening mood,
High on a rock the giant stood ;
His shout was like the doom of death
Spoke o'er their heads that passed be-
neath.
His destined victims might not spy
The reddening terrors of his eye,
The frown of rage that writhed his face,
The lip that foamed like boar's in chase ;
But all could see — and, seeing, all
Bore back to shun the threatened fall —
The fragment which their giant foe
Rent from the cliff and heaved to throw.



Backward they bore : — yet are there two

For battle who prepare :
No pause of dread Lord William knew

Ere his good blade was bare ;
And Wulfstane bent his fatal yew,
But ere the silken cord he drew,
As hurled from Hecla's thunder flew

That ruin through the air !
Full on the outlaw's front it came,
And all that late had human name,
And human face, and human frame,
That lived and moved and had free will
To choose the path of good or ill,

Is to its reckoning gone ;
And naught of Wulfstane rests behind

Save that beneath that stone,



Online LibraryWalter ScottThe poetical works of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet → online text (page 47 of 78)